Live Free Play Hard: THE WORLD’S TOP SECRET AGENT…IS A CINDERBLOCK

By Porpentine on November 10th, 2013 at 2:00 pm.

Most of these games violate Nature’s plan by letting you pretend to be weird-ass inhuman creatures.

Coloratura by Lynnea Glasser

>inventory
You contain the happiness and bliss of all things: the joyous weaving of time and space.

Parser game about an alien entity torn from its slumber. I enjoy art that interprets the human world through alien eyes, linguistically rebuilding the things we take for granted.

It’s also a bit of detective work for us, figuring out the familiar objects and entities the alien is referring to. For instance, a machine must be a creature because it moves (the alien’s dimension, a dreamscape of singing consciousnesses, seems to have no need for machinery), and someone who can fix the machine is the “beast’s handler”. By rearranging language and perceptions, our center of empathy is shifted from a human to an alien one.

Coloratura does a good job of hinting at your next action while preserving the xeno-celestial beauty of the prose. The parser is buttery smooth, accepting many commands, often the first thing I thought of. Not just the standard clinical syntax of parser, but simple English phrases that lead from the text. Lynnea clearly thought about what a person might do in a situation, and taught her machine some of our squishy ways.

The way your reality conflicts with the human reality is dreadful and fascinating. Two sides hurting each other, not out of malice, but out of the inability to comprehend each other.

At the same time, Lynnea makes the alien consciousness so beguiling. Beautiful and hideous colors flare from the world: the indigo of trust, the yellow of curiosity, the infrared of rage. By manifesting on the visible spectrum, even negative emotions have a certain aesthetic value. And when humans let their guard down, you can color them to suit your needs…

After all, humans are “Blind Ones”, sad creatures without the gift of song. Explore the world through the aqueous eyes of a creature for whom mere speech is a stunted, tragic thing.

 

White Mask Experiment by Sean McIlroy

Proceed through a dimension where the level design uses color and geometry to confuse you. For example, climbing a ramp without visible edges or shading, a field of pure white. When a few simple visual factors are eliminated, movement itself becomes the puzzle.

You can shoot balls to guide your path, and sometimes I used my cunning, like walking backward to maintain sight of some visible edge, which felt really cool, like I was navigating a magical dimension where I had to do sneaky fairy tricks to pass through illusions.

 

Guppy by Christiaan Moleman

The movement felt awkward at first, until I realized Christiaan’s control scheme actually feels a lot like controlling a cute little guppy. You alternate arrow keys, < > < > < >, but the speed of alternation is everything.

Rapid back n forth to get places fast, or slow, sweeping curves to angle into position and nip up a fly.

Flies give points. But most of all they give an excuse to swim like a fish in a watercolor pond. Watch out for the big black fish, they eat you.

The readme entices with, “If you want to find secrets, try experimenting with the SHIFT button…”

Post Future Vagabond by Michael Brough

Post Future Vagabond is probably the coolest name Michael’s given a game, but can we judge games based solely on their names?  Yes. But I have also played it.

This is like he made a puzzle game and turned it real time. The enemies and 4-way attack remind me of 868-HACK. The crate pulling reminds me of Corrypt. Damaging walls turns them into crates, explosions, and monsters. Ammunition pops up across the level, requiring you to balance your attacks with constant movement. On Twitter, Brough says: “positioning is a resource”.

Michael’s distorted mouthmade sounds and garbage-glitch art are always a pleasure.

Intriguingly, Post Future Vagabond is part of SHARECART1000, which means the save file can be used with any other game made under the name of SHARECART1000, like Kyle Reimergarten’s FJORDS or The Isles by Zaratustra and Karyn Ribas. Installing the games in the same SHARECART1000 directory may cause magic to happen.

Also, a certain file in each game’s directory is very…hackable.

I love how they’re playing with metagame elements normally relegated to pure utility, the dusty gears we ignore as we go right to the shiny .exe that turns all the arcane machinery into a living theater of light and motion. Sometimes the arcane machinery is worth crawling through.

 

Operative Assailants by thecatamites

This is my FAVORITE of the thecatamite’s daily marker games so far!!!!!!!! :)

Agent Synderblokk has the best storyline.

Zero by Artūrs Grebstelis

ASCII Shmup evoking World War 2 (from the perspective of a Japanese Zero pilot) with an interesting connection between sound and play.

The soundtrack is a Taiko drumbeat. In feudal Japan, Taiko drums were used to “motivate troops, to help set a marching pace,” according to Wikipedia. The beat increases in tempo the closer the level is to completion. When the beat climaxes, the chaos of battle disappears–like your enemies are woven into the song itself.

And like many of Artūrs’ games, Zero is about sensing patterns, not dying. The game counts your deaths but all that happens when you die is the beat resets. Tying this reincarnation to the drum beat elevates a good design choice to something grimly moving and thematically effective.

It feel ritualistic, these drum battles, like demons are being summoned up only to be exorcized again. The blood red Rising Sun in the background burnt into my eyes, punishing me whenever I was stuck in that corner of the screen. Zero can be a grueling game.

If I had died so many times in most other games, I would probably have given up. But sans game overs, I could be as stubborn as I wanted, because without a loss condition, I was challenging myself. When you remove restrictions, the player creates their own.

I finished with 83 deaths.

 

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11 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    Hypocee says:

    Hey hey! Every one of these entries is a game!

  2. Muzman says:

    I wonder if Lynnea Glasser is the same one that’s married to Russell Glasser of The Atheist Experience show.

    • LynneaGlasser says:

      I am the same Lynnea Glasser. I’ll tell Russell “Hi”. (And glad Coloratura was liked!)

  3. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    Thanks for the feature! (Guppy)

  4. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    Guppy is cute. Though I didn’t find the shift related secrets.

  5. jaguar skills says:

    I keep coming back to this feature hoping there’s a gem as fun as that ragdoll torture game from a few weeks ago, but you appear to have gone back to art wank and games made to look bad on purpose to give an excuse for a lack of art direction or design coherency.

    Can’t complain though, you get what you pay for don’t you? But by that scale I’d be getting my moneys worth even if each link was actually a redirect to meatspin. In fact, you should sneak one in next week so I at least laugh a little.

  6. Raiyan 1.0 says:

    I loved Zero. Someone should expand on and refine its mechanisms.

  7. dethtoll says:

    Zero is great. 53 deaths.

  8. pusheax says:

    >but can we judge games based solely on their names? Yes. But I have also played it.
    Awesome) Keep it up. Loving your style.

  9. ividyon says:

    I did not at all expect to like Coloratura. It’s the type of “artsy” game that seriously turns me off, but in this case I thoroughly enjoyed it and empathized with the alien-y thing I was playing as. (Though probably only because there is a hint function)

    Otherwise I can’t say I enjoy this column, though, considering it’s pretty much a big fat advertisement spot and every link has you directed to Porpentine’s indie game site instead of the actual game’s website…